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Hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico impacts medical supplies in Colorado

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BOULDER, Colo. -- Puerto Rico's devastation has an impact on local hospitals.

Months after Hurricane Maria, it's still hard to get supplies into Puerto Rico. It's also difficult to get supplies off the island, which is why medical centers are low on some of the materials they need.

Seventy percent of Puerto Rico's exports are pharmaceutical materials. Hospitals on the mainland rely on the island for a big chunk of its pharmacy supplies, including IV bags and fluids.

Right now, those materials are not at full stock.

“Way we order 100 cases of ringers, well now we may only get 70 to 80 of those cases,” said Casey Diekmann with Boulder Community Health.

It's a simple case of supply and demand.

“A lot of our things are made in places that we don’t even think about,” University of Colorado Denver assistant economics professor Andrew Friedson said.

“This industry cluster could start to move out of Puerto Rico to places that are less susceptible to supply chain disruptions.”

The current shortage isn't anything the hospitals can't handle; they still have exactly what they need to treat patients.

“We’ve had to get creative in how we deliver these medications,” Diekmann said. “Instead of being in a bag, you’ll actually administer these via a syringe.”

Longmont United Hospital said it's having the same problem.

Hospital managers say drug shortages are nothing new, but the hit from Hurricane Maria didn't help the ongoing situation.​